Historians used to imagine empire as an imperial power extending total domination over its colonies. Now, however, they understand empire as a site in which colonies and their constitutions were regulated by legal pluralism: layered and multicentric systems of law, which incorporated or preserved the law of conquered subjects. By placing the study of law in diverse early modern empires under the rubric of legal pluralism, Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 offers both legal scholars and historians a much-needed framework for analyzing the complex and fluid legal politics of empires.
Contributors analyze how ideas about law moved across vast empires, how imperial agents and imperial subjects used law, and how relationships between local legal practices and global ones played themselves out in the early modern world. The book’s tremendous geographical breadth, including the British, French, Spanish, Ottoman, and Russian empires, gives readers the most comparative examination of legal pluralism to date.
Lauren Benton is Professor of History, Affiliated Professor of Law, and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University. Her books include A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 and Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900.
Richard J. Ross is Professor of Law and History at the University of Illinois (Urbana/Champaign) and Director of the Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History. With Steven Wilf, he is currently working on a book, entitled: The Beginnings of American Law: A Comparative Study.